One: Rest

rest, retreat, photo references, fun
Stop, rest, stay a while

A retreat aims at restoring health, energy and inspiration with a little rest. Last week I was on retreat with my daughter in a beautiful setting not far from where we live. The Mount Carmel Spirituality Centre, just north of Stony Plain provided comfortable shelter, essential amenities and an abundance of peace.

rest, recreation, retreat, photo references,
Just sitting there

Choosing calm

Allergies forced us to bring our own food. Cooking together developed into a very enjoyable challenge as I had forgotten a few of the elements we had placed on the menu, such as cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches and the vegan margarine. We did remember the pots and pans in the endeavour to avoid cross contamination.

Rest and recreation

Rest, in the form of sleep, preoccupied us for the first couple of days. Our daily schedule included movies, reading, writing, crocheting, doodling, drawing, playing games, eating and sleeping. The weather determined our outside activities which featured two rather long hikes through the woods around Chickakoo Lake among others. Dogs and other humans were in short supply, adding to the pleasure of our retreat.

rest, recreation, retreat, photo references
Road less traveled

Sleepovers and emails

A fun afternoon and sleepover with some of our grandchildren delayed my return to reality and the responsibilities connected to over three hundred emails. The first correspondence I opened occupied the next three hours interspersed with getting meals and making wine. Ah yes, red wine, the elixir of life and the very enjoyable accouterment for our daily retreat just before supper.

Reference photos

The retreat accommodated my failing supplies of reference photos for future work as well as much needed rest. It did not help my lack of photo references for other seasons besides winter. Nonetheless, winter is one of my favorite seasons to paint. The negative space is delicious.

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One: Sidelines

sidelines, mixed media, abstract, paper
A good way to start the day

Sidelines are creative activities filling the time and space of drying paint. Much time could be lost to the drying process. Instead I use it to further other projects or experiments in media on different surfaces.

DEVENIR inspired

sidelines, mixed media, abstract, paper
One of the 8x8x30

DEVENIR inspired a project on paper which has continued at a slower pace than one per day. Certainly, the little six by six-inch paintings require drying time as well between layers. Having completed a couple of dozen on paper it is time to take it to other supports, perhaps terraskin, or yupo.

Family tree

sidelines, genealogy, scrapbooking, telling tales
A pocket for more information and a story to begin.

One very time consuming endeavour is a family tree of sorts. Instead of the usual series of non-identified photos strung in a series across a page in an album, I have begun to gather selected photos with the intent to create a family tree wherein I add some choice remembered family legends as they were related to me by my aunt and my mother. 

Each person gets a page or two

sidelines, genealogy, scrapbooking, telling tales
Sometimes there are not a lot of images from which to choose

Beginning with the oldest photos, I relate how each couple produced certain children who have contributed to the creation of my grandchildren. The very oldest photos date from 1823 and I have realized some families gave more priority to recording their family history in this way than others. Perhaps it was a matter of money. Perhaps time. In any case, once the great (great) grandparents are complete, I devote one or two pages to each of their children eventually coming down to people I know and recognize.

Family legends and greeting cards

Other sidelines include choosing a family legend and creating a colouring book of about ten pages for the younger set for Christmas. In the same vein, this year’s Christmas card will be getting some attention too as it takes a while to design, cut the lino and print.

My muse prefers various sidelines

One would think I would have enough to do with the production of thirty or so paintings for my solos later in the year. Indeed, these are my priority. The sidelines, however, keep me focused and engaged. My muse is delightfully titillated by something off the track or in the midst of untraveled territory. In other words, variety is the spice of my life.

Framing for coming events

Now that the VASA show is coming to an end we can look forward to another show at CAVA at the end of February. I will have about a dozen paintings from the Whimsy series there. Framing will be among the sidelines I choose to do while watching paint dry in the coming weeks.

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One: Preparation

Awaiting development

Preparation, no matter how well organized, can go astray. Mice and … well, you know. Stress causes cold sores. At least in me. I did enjoy the holidays. And last week has been productive. I just forgot to look at my schedule before I said yes. Of course, applying for a show does not guarantee entrance. Not all exhibitions are showing the same series either. It is just that I forgot to look…

Lots of shows

Knowing I have a possible show for every month except July and December this year gives me heartburn when I am surprised by something new. It really is not that bad. I mean the solo shows in September and November will provide new work for other shows along the way. No need to panic.

Preparation is slow

Another phenomenon within preparation is the seeming non-progress as I begin developing a new body of work. Lately it has been a series of days waiting for paint to dry. First the molding paste. Then the gesso mix. Followed by each layer of thin pure pigment. Lately I have been throwing paint at the surface in various locations depending upon the underlying value or darkness of the piece.

Beginning to quickly

Excitedly I thought the preparation was complete and I decided which of the four panels would be my first enterprise. About to install it on the easel, I had forgotten to wire the stretcher. Quickly taking out the tools I twisted in the four screws on the smaller pieces. At last, I could begin putting in the shapes…

Over the edges

A new development arose as I finished the last series.  Finalizing the edges of each work proves easier when the initial drips and drops are done at the same time as the main surface. So much easier. Occasionally very little needs adding to the initial drips and drops to complete the illusion of continuity. So taking the canvas off the easel again I began the drips and drops to the edges.

Fourteen prepped

All in all, my preparation includes fourteen partially prepared canvases with two of them ready for the throwing exercise and four more awaiting the development of the image. I promised myself at least three images per month. The first four measure thirty-six by sixty and thirty-six by thirty inches. So I am not sure I can meet my commitment as I only have one more week to complete before life takes a curve again.

Calming down

Breathe deeply. Paint slowly and carefully. The preparation is solid and all else follows easily… One can dream anyway. Life is so good.

The CAVA show is still on. Do drop in.

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One: Shipping

shipping, mixed media, semi-abstract,
Ready to pack

T’is the season to ship to Vancouver. The Federation of Canadian Artists offer an array of different competitions in which its members are invited to participate. I have taken a bit of a hiatus from this smorgasbord recently because of the intense local activity requiring no shipping.

Something different

What has stumped me on this latest shipment, however, is the unusual piece I am shipping. Works on paper are for the most part watercolour or drawings, not mixed media. I wanted something different. I had decided on a thin panel of wood until I looked up the acceptable parameters for the show. Oops. I still did not want to put it behind glass.

Glass and shipping do not mix well

Glass is always problematic in the shipping process. Whatever precautions one takes, it may or may not arrive in one piece. Although in the past I have successfully used a method wherein one tapes the surface with wide masking tape in a design to ensure the possible shards will not damage the painting, I was looking for something more like a shadow box. The distance between the glass and the painting would give it too much room to move.

Mistakes

Naturally, when one attempts something new, one makes mistakes. My first attempt to frame the painting resulted in some ugly accidents. I had decided to place the piece centered on core board cut to fit the frame. Eyeballing the centre I used double sided tape to hold the work in place. Mistake number one. The tape refused to stick to the watercolour paper. So, I used gel.

Glass is dispensable

Cutting more thin slices of core board I prepared a ridge around the edge of the backing to fit under the frame lip and thereby install a deeper distance from the frame edge to the work. Slipping it into the frame ended up being impossible with the glass. Cutting thinner spacers did not work either. Somehow little unacceptable specks installed themselves under the glass, impossible to remove. I took out the glass.

Assumptions as not as accurate

shipping, mixed media, paper, semi-abstract
Rulers are just the right thickness for lifting.

Assuming rather than measuring the size required in a twelve-by-twelve-inch frame was my third mistake. The second one was not measuring, again, to centre the painting on the core board. Evidently the painting had to be detached and placed on a larger piece of core board. This proved more of a challenge since gel is a wonderful glue.

Measuring is best

This time I measured. Quite satisfied with the result and the bonus of reduced weight, I proceeded to create the necessary tools for shipping. First the 6mm plastic sheath with the name of the painting on it. Wrapped in half-inch bubble wrap I put a layer of corrugated cardboard around the bundle. Wrapping this again in one-inch bubble wrap the bundle had grown to about sixteen inches square. I made the exterior box to fit and it is now ready to ship.

The next show

I am tempted to apply to the next show in Vancouver. Now that would be a real challenge to ship since it is almost three dimensional mixed media on paper as well. It would require some kind of styrofoam box to protect the surface and prevent movement within the shipping box… Mmmm. I have until Wednesday to decide.

Now showing

Happy New Year by the way. The All Member Winter Show at VASA is still on. Do drop in. Have a great week.

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One: Map

map, mixed media, semi-abstract, landscape
A mess

This week I thought I would share a bit of my process. I follow a map. It may or may not be exact as far as location is concerned. Portraits of places is not my goal. Rather it is the ambiance of the sacred space, the soul of creation.

Beginning with a mess

I begin with a mess. From the reference photo I decide where the darks and lights go. Using a poppy red watercolour pencil, I may mark in significant points, usually any man-made structure. The rest is decided as I go along freehand.

map, mixed media, semi-abstract, landscape, figures

Choosing shapes

Carefully following the drip lines and texture marks I select some shapes to represent trees. Although the driplines and the texture determine the shape of the forms I paint, I choose which ones to fill in and which ones to leave blank. I may also tweak the shape within the form so as to create more natural looking growth.

map, landscape, semi-abstract, mixed media, figures
Legs are blue

Reintroducing figures

Another decision lately is to reintroduce some figures into the landscape. They are useful for directing the eye around the piece as well as creating focal points and counter focal points. The illusion of a person is all that is required so the shapes remain quite abstract. In this piece, although it is difficult to see, the legs are blue in contrast to the green in the background.

Where to go on the map?

Deciding to complete the upper part of the painting I move across the canvas adding some more man-made walls, people and the vegetation before throwing in the distant hills.

map, semi-abstract, mixed media, figures, landscape
Water flows around rocks

Not a portrait

Now for the waterfall. At this point I depart from the photo paying more attention to the texture and the play of paint on the surface. I find if I let go of preconceived ideas, like it has to look like Helen Hunt Falls in Colorado, I end up with a much more satisfying result. The essential is a varied line and groupings of lines. The next decision will be which colour to use for the rock formations, blue or orange.

map, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape, figures
Setting the foreground

Dealing with the foreground

Before moving further down the canvas, I look at the map and decide to develop the fence posts. These structures are in the foreground and they block the view of what lays behind. Perspective is important here although the fence is not perfectly aligned. Backing up I find the pencil lines are not quite correct. The handy water bottle and a bit of paper towel soon removes any unwanted residue as I attempt a more believable version.

Map turns corners

map, semi-abstract, mixed media, landscape, figures
Rock or vegetation?

The map continues around the edges and I have some more decisions to make. Is this rock or vegetation? I choose vegetation although I have not determined exactly what it will look like or how far it will extend. The map is not precise. Contemplating which direction to go, where and what to develop, all keeps this artist in very happy territory. I so enjoy the random.

Events

Do check out the VASA Winter Member Show. It runs to 2 February 2019. Enjoy your week.

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One: Merry Christ mas

Christ, Christmas, celebration, blessings, greetings
All wrapped and ready to go.

”Whenever the material and the spiritual coincide, there is the Christ. Jesus fully accepted that human-divine identity and walked it into history. Henceforth, the Christ “comes again” whenever we are able to see the spiritual and the material coexisting, in any moment, in any event, and in any person.” Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations,3 December 2018.

Christ’s incarnation

I have been thinking about this joyful season and its greeting as the celebration of the incarnation of God approaches. More and more I hear people wishing a Merry Christmas to those around them. Perhaps the return of this greeting has something to do with the uproar over the song “Let it Snow”.

Celebration greetings

Amidst my pondering people have greeted me with happy Hanukkah and I wondered if Ramadan occurred around this time of year too. No one seems offended by greetings connected to these celebrations. So why is “Merry Christmas” banned in some places?

Well-wishers

From my point of view these greetings share the same invitation: well-wishes for everyone. Especially now, after all it is the time of solstice and the days will be getting thankfully longer. We will soon see the sun again as we move to and from work! Longing for light, we tire of the darkness.

Greetings reveal identity

Another consequence of having wished people well is the inevitable identification we shoulder. By wishing you a Merry Christmas I identify myself as Christian, not a popular stance these days and very much discouraged. “People might be offended,” they say. I have no idea why. I am not offended when someone wishes me a happy Hanukkah, or a happy Ramadan. Rather, I take it as a blessing, and we have much need of blessings these days.

Christ came for everyone

So, when I wish you a Merry Christmas, I am attempting to bless you not convert you to my rather imperfect religion. When someone takes offense, I am truly saddened to know this person has been somehow wounded by association with the Christian church. I understand and I will pray for that person. There is much need of healing. New teaching, more accurate teaching about Christ, would go a long way too. I pray for my embattled, imperfect church too. There is much to be done. I am hoping my joyful contribution will make a difference in this beleaguered world.

Blessings

With that in mind, Merry Christmas everyone. May you enjoy the blessings of this special season abundantly: joy, peace, love and fellowship. In addition, may you find it in your heart ot bless those around you with the gifts you have received and can share. Blessings to you all.

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One: Volcano

volcano, relationship, forgiveness, fallout
Forgiveness prevents eruptions

A volcano erupted last Friday. It was not in the news. No one noticed in my neighbourhood. In fact, only the small group of people in my living room knew about it. Nevertheless, the repercussions are widespread and destructive. Betrayal is the root.

Building a solid foundation

Over the years my husband and I have built a solid foundation in relationship. Based on forgiveness and trust we enjoy a vibrant, challenging repartee, especially when we do not agree. This dynamic is only possible knowing we can count on each other. We do not lie to each other.

Mistakes

However, mistakes abound in any human endeavour. All people have weaknesses and foibles. If we do not leave room to forgive, if we hang onto our hurts and wounds, we build a volcano and relationship becomes a wasteland. Forgiveness is key. Recommitment to truth opens the way to move forward.

Praying for resolution

The lava is still flowing and the hurt deepens. Although an apology was forthcoming and accepted, the necessary forgiveness and recommitment remained absent. As we move closer to Christmas and the usual family gatherings, I pray for resolution and reconciliation. Having hung onto my own hurts and wounds for many years I know where this may lead. I also know the joy of healing and renewal forgiveness provides.

Holding the tension

In my corner, some of the fallout includes a desert void of energy and inspiration. As I hold the tension between the two, I find I cannot concentrate on baking or writing letters. Attending parties and get togethers take on the trappings of a trial rather than a pleasure. I wait for the opportunity to remind the protagonists to consider forgiveness and recommitment. My own commitment is to point out the destruction righteousness causes. We may be perfectly justified in our thoughts and actions, but do we really want the results?

“Only mutual apology, healing, and forgiveness offer a sustainable future for humanity.” Richard Rohr Daily Meditations” June 12, 2018

My volcano may cool

December seems to inspire eruptions. Some of the most hurtful memories reside at this time when joy should be the norm. Our volcano still spouts hot coals. Perhaps it will have time to cool before the test arrives. In the meantime, I wait, holding the tension and praying.

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One: Advent

Linocut print, advent, greeting cards, Christmas, limited edition
The Gift

Advent is a time of preparation. Christians believe God came in human form, born in a manger, helpless and dependent. My Christmas card this year symbolizes this gift. The gift of incarnation has had theologians stumped for about two thousand years. A few mystics and side-lined thinkers have provided some insight into the mystery. They suggest surrender instead of understanding, not something we do easily.

God as vulnerable

So, what would happen if we came to believe in a God dwelling intimately in his/her creation? No separation. Seeing God as vulnerable, someone whom we can hurt by our actions and our words, does not seem to fit the omnipotent, omnipresent notion we have been taught. Yet, this little baby, Jesus, unites spirit and matter and gives us a blueprint to follow.

Union of matter and spirit

Unfortunately, we have rejected this concept from the beginning. Killing Jesus did not eliminate the truth however. Christ still sustains the whole of creation waiting for us to engage in co-creation in a positive way. Union of matter and spirit persists, we are just unaware.

All is one

“It may take us hundreds of years more to move beyond the old cosmology that viewed matter and spirit, light and dark, you and me, as separate entities and life and death as total opposites. Christ is the Living Icon of all Reality and all Reconciliation. His very being says that matter and Spirit are one! Life and death are one! The Christ Mystery is the code-breaker for the human dilemma.” Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations,7 December 2018

Dangerous imbalance

Our dilemma resides in our refusal to welcome this vulnerable, loving Creator. In our frenzy to better ourselves in our separation, we have created a dangerous imbalance which cannot be sustained. We approach the point of no return. Some see this happening within our life time, in the next twenty to thirty years if I am still to be.

The choice is ours

“It’s certain that within our lifetimes, per capita consumption rates in the developed world will be lower than they are now. The only question is whether we’ll reach that outcome by methods of our choice or by unpleasant methods not of our choice. It’s also certain that within our lifetimes, per capita consumption rates in developing countries will no longer be one-thirtieth of developed countries’ rates but will be more nearly equal to them.” Jared Diamond National GeographicDecember 2018, p.20

Choosing simplicity

A better balance is not only desirable but essential. This Advent may be best used in an endeavour to simplify my lifestyle, to find ways to reduce my ecological footprint. Personally I prefer to reach a balance through means of my choice rather than pestilence, for example.

Advent beauty

Should we engage in this notion of an intimately connected God residing in all creation and in every person ever born, we could more easily love the other and care for the beauty around us. Beauty is an essential component in the manifestation of God. This Advent let us all endeavour to create beauty, visually and in relationship, not matter what our beliefs may be.

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One: Archive

mixed media, archive, physics,

Recently I helped my daughter archive her work. She is way ahead of me. Photographing the work is basically the first step. I have known this for a long time. I have also kept a running list of inventory numbers. Gradually I added more information such as whether it sold and sometimes to whom….

Good advice

With this vast experience under my belt I am consequently in an excellent position to advise my daughter on what not to do.

More information is better

Certainly, the more information one has the better. I have not been with Artwork Archive for very long. Most regrettable. This excellent and inexpensive tool has immense capacities to store vital information, information I no longer possess. Although I managed to record the year I created a piece, I did not indicate the month or the day. As well, I can cite the year something sold without precision as to date or amount, or even to whom. Sigh.

How to name the photos

Along with the photographs, I included a list for my daughter about how to name them. Being consistent is really key. Every submission requires a particular set of parameters, so they do need tweaking. Nonetheless, a consistent method of naming will give the artist easy access to a lot of information. My suggestion was: NameOfArtist-NameOfWork-Medium-Size-Year-SizeOfPhoto-jpg. The best photos are then stored in a folder on the computer in categories such as <1M, 1M, 2M, 4M and >5M. Easy access for a quick emails or something more detailed for a special submission. As well, I add a sixth folder named Extras to hold all the extra photos generated during the photo session. If there are more than two extra photos for a piece I create another folder for that piece, for example: “Errant”, to keep things organized. 

Inventory numbers

Consistent with the photo, I use Word to add poetry, a blurb on where I was and why I was inspired inserted beside the photo of the work itself. This is another way to inventory a piece besides Artwork Archive. Inside a file on my computer I keep each page with two photos, the blurb and important information on the size of the support, the medium and the price. These pages I use for display in a folder for each series. Or I print them on better quality paper and cut them in two for display with the painting itself.

The archive is essential

The Archive is an essential tool in the artist’s repertoire. Start early, right at the beginning. At the moment I only have about twenty years of slides to digitize. At least I wrote the name of the work on the slide, I think… These are waiting in the wings as I endeavour to keep up to the present production. A challenge to which DEVENIR has contributed lately. I am certainly not bored. Life is good.

Events

Do drop in on the VASA opening this Thursday evening, 6 December at 7pm.  Fun times and good fellowship.

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One: Archiving

archiving, photos, full spectrum light, pins and masking tape
My handy pin board

Archiving one’s work ranks as one of the most important aspects in the life of a professional artist. Over the years I have discovered some practices which reduce the time needed for this chore. As I deal with various materials and supports, the tricks vary somewhat.

Taking photos

In the beginning I tried to follow the advice of the professionals. Some suggested special lighting. I bought special lighting. Others suggested the shadow side of a building on a day with relatively thin cloud cover. I managed inconsistent results. Consequently, I will forever be thankful for the invention of digital photography and iPhoto. Photoshop Elements is a marvelous tool as well.

Full spectrum lighting

Installing full spectrum florescent lighting in my studio has saved my day. Not only do I have consistent lumens, I no longer need to install the special lighting. All I need is my camera, a tripod and an easel.

A pile for archiving

DEVENIR has created a whirlwind of activity in my studio lately. I love the challenge of creating a painting a day. Now that the challenge has come to an end, I feel the need to continue, although at a slower pace, perhaps. As a result of all the painting, however, I had a pile of paintings needing photography.

archiving, pins, masking tape, screws
Pins and masking tape

Screws for small stretchers

My years with watercolour gave me a singularly useful tool in the form of a pin board. Using a half sheet of half-inch plywood, I covered the surface with a sheet of cork. Over the cork I installed a neutral piece of gray fabric. This gave me a surface into which I could insert hat pins holding the watercolour paper in place for the camera. I also use this board for smaller pieces which I hang on the screws at the top.

archiving, DEVENIR, photos, mixed media
One of forty-two

Same size easier

With the 30 Day Challenge, I not only had the thirty paintings which needed archiving. A dozen “mistakes” could be included as well as the latest two in my new series “One”. Most of the paintings were the same size, eight by eight inches. A much easier and quicker proposition.

Masking tape corners

I set up the tripod and camera, placed the pin board on the easel and lined up the first painting. Making sure I set the camera at the lowest setting I proceeded to take several shots knowing what I saw through the viewfinder may not be the result I sought. Ideally, I fill the lens as much as possible, so cropping is kept to a minimum. Masking tape gave me the borders of the next painting. It did not take long to go through forty-five paintings at five different settings each.

Turning it sideways

Archiving canvases requires a different approach. Removing the pin board, I put the first painting on the easel. Since it is square, it only needed a level to determine if it was square to the camera lens. Several shots ensued as I moved the camera where the image filled the photo. The second piece is rectangular. I find it easier to place the painting on its side rather than finding the apparatus to change the camera to a different angle. However, I cannot simply hang it on its wire. Using a clamp, I secure the wire to the easel and proceed with the photography.

Archiving made easy

Now iPhoto completes the preparation for archiving the images, cropping colour adjustment and renaming. Once this is done I file the photos on my computer in folders for easy access and then I add them to Artwork Archives, a tool I highly recommend.

archiving, cropping, mixed media
Ready to crop

Upcoming events

Finally, don’t miss the latest show at VASA in St. Albert. Always a good time.

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